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Student life as a geriatric.

A few hours of dancing and feeling young again, forgetting about the geriatric life – is it worth the now 7-day hangover?

The aching, sore and weak muscles for days afterwards, coupled with the regret and anxiety over putting my body through it all – it’s not how I imagined spending my 20s.

But hey, who said you can't be old and bold?

I find it's hard to make myself go out when I’m so bogged down in my thoughts, so when I do go out, I may go a bit over the top!

But do we not deserve to let loose a little? Should we not take every opportunity?

As you know by now, I want this blog to be a platform to help others, not just a space to talk about myself. That being said, if I want you to share your stories, I need to share mine. So, here it is…

I was diagnosed with RA during my third year at University, whilst studying BSc Psychology at Teesside University. The first thing that happened was a twisted ankle (no sprain, no strain, no broken bones).

This may have happened from falling off the curb, running to the burger van at the end of a night out. I woke up stunned to see that my ankle was three times its usual size and a bag of defrosted peas in my bed! My memory of the night was blurry, to say the least, but luckily my housemate remembered more than I did (thank you, Lucy). My ankle didn't improve for about three weeks or so. Then my knee swelled up and then my wrists – for no reason at all. It was all a mystery at this point. I just assumed it would be more drunken falls that I couldn't remember.

More worried than I was, as family often are, they made me go to the Doctors, who suggested I take some time off Uni and to go back to have blood tests if nothing improves with Naproxen and Co-codamol. As aforementioned, it was a quick diagnosis and referral to Rheumatology at Airedale, so within a few weeks, I was en-route to getting medication – the start of the sulfasalazine.

We had a little group seminar to introduce us to the medications and give us the correct information before we started taking it. The nurses managed to scare us into thinking we wouldn't be able to drink whilst on the tablets, so said we could wait until after Christmas to start taking the medication, which I did. After Christmas, I remember thinking that, as much as I like a drink, nothing was worth being like this! So, I had a very sober New Year's Eve. One that was definitely worth it. I’ve learnt over the past couple of years that the sober ones are never the ones you regret!

Before the Christmas holidays 2017, I had to go back up to Middlesbrough to hand in some Uni work. It was a Wednesday, so the SU and Go-Ninja (night out at Spensley's) were on the cards. I went out on my crutches with the old ‘I'm a Uni student, I'm invincible’ mindset. I thought I may as well, the future is unknown. Up until that point, being drunk felt like a requirement on those nights, but in retrospect, staying sober(ish) and in control was for the best. I still had a great night and even managed to make it up on to the box to dance. I may have needed help getting up and down, but I still made it, which at the time felt like a complete high.

Speaking of a complete high - as my friend told everyone who passed by that I had arthritis, I was told by many students that weed would be the answer to my problems! Perhaps they’re right? (If any of you have any insight on this, or experiences to share, please do!)

Honestly, I hated that my friend was telling everyone about my RA that night, it made me feel really exposed and self-conscious. It’s taken some time to come to terms with, but recent events have shown me that it shouldn't matter who knows.

If it wasn't for my family's words of encouragement, this blog would be anonymous. I would still be hiding. Even after everything I've said, I guess I am still ashamed or embarrassed about my condition, but I’m working to overcome that and come out the other side feeling confident and able to use it to my advantage. Even if I must fake it, to begin with, I think of myself as quite the master of faking feelings, so bring it on!

Fake it ‘til you make it...

Quick disclaimer here - I'm not advising anyone to fake anything! Far from it. However, if a fake smile gets you through the day, then do what you’ve got to do. Maybe we can learn from this that a real smile could do so much more. As long as you're not hiding your feelings, as long as you know you are not alone, and as long as you keep talking to someone, then there’s nothing wrong with a little a fake smile here and there.

For about a year after my diagnosis, I felt alone. Not in terms of support, I knew I had that, but in terms of understanding. Truly knowing how it all felt. Then, a girl I knew got the same diagnosis and wanted someone to talk to about it. I am so glad that she reached out, that she had the guts and came to talk to me. I admire her for it. I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it!

It’s been so good to have someone to talk to about it all and to try figure things out together. As awful and unfortunate it is that she has RA, and I wish that it wasn't this that has brought us together, I am so thankful for our friendship and that we have each other to get through all the ups and downs. I hope I have helped her as much as she has helped me. I don't know if it's because of the condition, or just the person I am, but I want to be able to help anyone and everyone I can, in any way.

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